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Pope Francis Recalls Trip to Panama During General Audience (Full Text)

‘I invite you to render thanks to the Lord with me, for this grace that He willed to give to the Church and to the people of that dear country. ‘

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The January 30, 2019, General Audience was held at 9:30 in Paul VI Hall, where the Holy Father Francis met with groups of pilgrims and faithful from Italy and from all over the world.
In his address in Italian, the Pope focused his meditation on his Apostolic Journey to Panama, which just ended, on the occasion of the 34th World Youth Day (WYD) (Biblical passage from the Gospel according to Luke 1:38-39).
After summarizing his catechesis in several languages, the Holy Father expressed special greetings to groups of faithful present.
The General Audience ended with the singing of the Pater Noster and the Apostolic Blessing.
* * *
The Holy Father’s Catechesis
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today I will reflect with you on the Apostolic Journey I undertook in the past days to Panama. I invite you to render thanks to the Lord with me, for this grace that He willed to give to the Church and to the people of that dear country. I thank Mister President of Panama and the other Authorities, the Bishops and I thank all the volunteers– there were so many — for their warm and friendly welcome, the same that we saw in the people everywhere, who rushed to greet us with great faith and enthusiasm.  Something that struck me very much: the people lifted the children with their arms as if saying: “Here is my pride, here is my future!” And they made us see the children, but there were so many! And the fathers and mothers were proud of that child. I thought: how much dignity there is in this gesture, and how eloquent it is for the demographic winter that we are living in Europe! The children are the pride of the family. The children are the security for the future. The demographic winter, without children, is hard!
The reason for this trip was the World Youth Day; however, to the meetings with young people were interlaced others with the country’s realities: the Authorities, the Bishops, young prisoners, the consecrated and a family house. Everything was as though “infected” and “amalgamated” by the joyful presence of the young people: a celebration for them and a celebration for Panama, and also for the whole of Central America, marked by so many dramas and needy of hope and peace, and also of justice.
The meeting of young people of native and Afro-American peoples preceded this World Youth Day. A beautiful gesture: native young people and Afro-descendent young people had five days of encounter. There are so many in that region. They opened the door of the World Day. And this was an important initiative, which manifested still better the multi-form face of the Church in Latin America: Latin America is mestiza [mixed blood]. Then, with the arrival of groups from the whole world, the great symphony was formed of faces and languages, typical of this event. To see all the flags parade together, dancing in the hands of young people, joyful to meet one another is a prophetic sign, a counter-current sign in relation to today’s sad tendency to conflictive nationalisms, which raise walls and are closed to universality, to the encounter between peoples. It’s a sign that Christian young people are leaven of peace in the world.
This WYD had a strong Marian imprint because it’s theme was the Virgin’s words to the Angel: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). It was intense to hear these words pronounced by representatives of young people of five Continents, and especially to see it shown on their faces. As long as there are new generations capable of saying “here I am” there will be a future for the world.
Among the stages of the WYD, there is always the Via Crucis. To walk with Mary behind Jesus, who carries the cross, is the school of Christian life: one learns there patient, silent and concrete love. I will share a confidence with you: I like very much to do the Via Crucis because it is to go with Mary behind Jesus. And I always carry with me a pocket Via Crucis, which was given to me by a very apostolic person in Buenos Aires, to do it at any moment.  And when I have time, I take it and follow the Via Crucis. You, too, do the Via Crucis, because it is to follow Jesus with Mary on the way of the cross, where he gave His life for us, for our Redemption. In the Via Crucis, one learns patient, silent and concrete love. At Panama, young people carried, with Jesus and Mary, the weight of the condition of so many suffering brothers and sisters in Central America and in the whole world. Among these are so many young people victims of different forms of slavery and poverty. And, in this connection, there were very significant moments: the Penitential Liturgy I celebrated in a House of re-education of minors and the visit to the “Good Samaritan” Family-House, which hosts people affected by HIV/AIDS.
The culmination of the WYD and of the trip was the Vigil and the Mass with young people. In the Vigil — in that field full of young people who did the Vigil, they slept there and at 8 o’clock in the morning they took part in the Mass — renewed in the Vigil was the lively dialogue with all boys and girls, enthusiastic and also capable of silence and listening. They passed from enthusiasm to listening to silent prayer. I proposed Mary to them as she who, in her littleness, “influenced” more than any other the history of the world: we called her the “influencer of God.” Reflected in her “fiat” were the beautiful and strong testimonies of some young people. On Sunday morning, in the great final Eucharistic celebration, Christ Risen, with the strength of the Holy Spirit, spoke again to the world’s young people, calling them to live the Gospel today, because young people aren’t the “tomorrow”; no, they are the “today” for the “tomorrow.” They are not “in the meantime,” but they are the today, the now of the Church and of the world. And I appealed to the responsibility of the adults so that the new generations do not lack education, work, community, and family. And this is the key at this moment in the world because these things are lacking — instruction, that is, education. Work: how many young people are without it. Community: that they feel welcomed, in the family, in the society.
The meeting with all the Bishops of Central America was, for me, a moment of special consolation. Together we let ourselves be taught by the witness of the holy Bishop Oscar Romero, to learn ever better to “feel with the Church” — it was his episcopal motto –, in closeness to young people, to the poor, to priests, to the holy faithful People of God.
The consecration of the altar of the restored Cathedral of Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama had an intense symbolic value. It was closed for seven years for the restoration — a sign of rediscovered beauty, to the glory of God and for the faith and celebration of His People. The Chrism that consecrates the altar is the same that anoints the baptized, Confirmation candidates, priests, and Bishops. May the family of the Church in Panama, and in the whole world, be able to draw from the Holy Spirit ever new fruitfulness so that the pilgrimage of the young missionary disciples of Jesus Christ may continue and spread over the earth.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]
In Italian
A warm welcome goes to the Italian-speaking pilgrims.
I’m happy to receive the Nuns of the Passion of Jesus Christ (Passionists), on the occasion of the General Chapter; the Women Religious of the “Talitha Kum Global Network”; the Brothers of Charity and the Members of the Missio Christi Institute.
I greet the Families of the Traveling Show: no doubt Sister Genevieve is there!;  the Association of Solidary European Volunteers; the “Salvade for Africa” group and the School Institutes, in particular, those of Cisterna di Latina and of Ginosa.
A particular thought goes to young people, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.
Tomorrow we will celebrate the memorial of Saint John Bosco, father, and teacher of young people: this was a good priest! Don Bosco was able to make all young people he met feel God’s embrace, offering them hope, a house <and> a future. May his witness help all of us to consider how important it is to educate the new generations in genuine human and spiritual values.
© Libreria Editrice Vatican
[Original text: Italian]  [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]

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Virginia Forrester

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